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Anti-Spam Human Verification: How to Spam-Proof Your Website

Alex McConnell
Alex McConnell
18/02/20
4 Minute read
What are CAPTCHA Farms?

Article Contents

    From emails to social media, spam is sent and received across all kinds of online messaging systems. Mostly, it’s easy to ignore it. But when it comes to your business website, spam can be more than just an annoyance. It can skew your marketing data and allow bad bots to infiltrate your site. That’s why anti-spam human verification methods are key to protecting your business.

    What is spam and how can it affect your website?

    Spam is any kind of unwanted or unsolicited material you receive online. Spam is distributed via email, message, or bot traffic. Spam emails and messages can contain phishing links that are designed to acquire sensitive information such as login credentials and payment details.

    Spam web traffic and spam bots are also designed to disrupt your website. High volumes of spam can give you inaccurate marketing data, while DDoS attacks and other bot activity can prevent legitimate users from accessing your online store or services.

    Attackers can also use spam bots for cross-site scripting (XSS), in which bots inject malicious code into your website forms. Other attackers use them to access private information stored on your servers by using brute force attacks and credential stuffing to gain entry to your site.

    Data breaches and website downtime have huge repercussions for businesses. Your security teams will need to spend time restoring and protecting your site, and you may lose sales and customer confidence. Plus, there are significant penalties for data and privacy breaches in the UK, Europe, and the US.

    Data privacy lawMaximum penalty
    UK GDPR£17.5 million or 4% of annual global turnover – whichever is larger
    EU GDPR€20 million or 4% of annual global turnover – whichever is larger
    California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA)$7,500 per intentional violation or $2,500 per unintentional violation, with no maximum limit
    Virginia Consumer Data Protection Act (VCDPA)$7,500 per violation
    Colorado Privacy Act (ColoPA)$2,000 per violation, with a maximum penalty of $500,000

    What anti-spam measures are there?

    Protecting your website against spam should be a priority for any business that operates online. Spam is irritating for customers and businesses alike, leading many people to install ad blockers in their browser. This can impact your ad revenue — so it’s essential for businesses to prevent pop-ups and other types of online spam.

    There are many steps you can take to prevent spam traffic, including:

    • Anti-spam human verification — CAPTCHA forms are a widely used way to prevent spam bots from completing forms on your website
    • Implement honeypots — honeypots are hidden form fields that aren’t visible to human users. If someone completes the form field, you’ll know it was a bot
    • Bot management systems — WAFs and other anti-bot solutions help you block bot traffic at the source, preventing them from spamming your website.

    CAPTCHA and reCAPTCHA for human verification

    Anti-spam human verification measures like CAPTCHA and reCAPTCHA are widely used to recognize and reduce spam. Most sites use them to protect key website assets like login forms and contact pages.

    While some bots are still unable to complete CAPTCHA forms, sophisticated programs are increasingly able to bypass human verification processes like these. That’s why many businesses are turning to more advanced cybersecurity measures like bot management systems to protect their sites.

    What’s the difference between CAPTCHA and reCAPTCHA?

    CAPTCHA forms are simple puzzles that usually take humans no more than a few seconds to complete. They usually consist of identifying and copying characters into a text box, or solving a simple math problem. Unlike humans, most bots can’t solve CAPTCHA verification.

    When CAPTCHA was developed, only humans could solve these puzzles, but many modern bots can bypass them. CAPTCHA forms also cause user experience problems, decreasing conversion by up to 40%.

    Developed by Google, reCAPTCHA is a newer, less intrusive version of CAPTCHA. It’s quickly become the go-to human verification process, since it has a lower impact on user experience than typical CAPTCHA forms. ReCAPTCHA forms typically have a single verify humans field, which looks like this:

    ReCAPTCHA example

    Instead of a puzzle, reCAPTCHA typically asks users to check a box that verifies they aren’t a robot. The most recent reCAPTCHA development doesn’t even need the user to check the box — it uses cookies and AI to verify human users, making the system more efficient and less disruptive, while preventing bots from accessing your website forms.

    CAPTCHAreCAPTCHA v2reCAPTCHA v3
    Human verification methodUsers must solve a simple puzzle to submit a form entryUsers check a box to confirm they aren’t a botNo user input needed; JavaScript API identifies bot/spam traffic without user input
    Impact on UX and form conversionPuzzles cause some disruption, making the process more arduous and reducing conversionsMinimal UX and conversion impact, due to single checkbox processNo UX and conversion impact, as reCAPTCHA will store settings and verify in the background
    User/administrator requirementsNo specific requirementsIndividuals must accept certain cookies for maximum efficiencyTechnical knowledge is required to implement v3 and monitor allowed visitors

    How to add anti-spam human verification to your website

    Adding CAPTCHA or reCAPTCHA to your site helps secure it against spam. While reCAPTCHA requires your users to approve cookies, it also makes their experience on your website a lot smoother overall — so reCAPTCHA is usually a better anti-spam verification method than CAPTCHA or honeypots.

    It’s also easy to install reCAPTCHA. First, register your website on the reCAPTCHA site. Then follow the instructions on how to add it to forms in your CMS:

    Tips for keeping your website spam-free

    • Install reCAPTCHA anti-spam human verification on your website forms
    • Add a honeypot or human verification field set to your forms
    • Ensure bots can’t skip human verification using a bot management system
    • Blacklist IP addresses that continually send spam traffic to your site
    • Put anti-spam measures in place before your site grows

    Spam-proof your site and protect your UX

    The more security you add to your website, the bigger the impact on user experience. While CAPTCHA is a commonly used anti-spam technique, it also has a serious impact on conversions — so many businesses now seek an alternative to CAPTCHA.

    Genuine users want to be able to complete actions on your website without having to repeatedly prove they’re legitimate. Find out how to protect your UX without compromising your cybersecurity.

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